Thursday, September 25, 2014

Responding to a Violent World

Talk delivered at Central Church on Sunday, September 21, 2014.

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Best Reads of 2013

This has been a very slow blogging year for me, at least on this site. I've blogged a bit elsewhere and done quite a bit of other writing that is not yet for public consumption. Nevertheless, I have done my usual bit of reading. Much of it has been very targeted on a specific topic, but here are some highlights.

Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament by Peter Enns
Enns is a bit of an iconoclast. He's certainly not afraid to proclaim the emperor naked. This book is no exception, taking aim at the traditional understanding (or perhaps application) of the doctrine of the inspiration of scripture. He argues convincingly for an understanding of scriptural inspiration that mirrors the incarnation of Jesus. That is to say that scripture is 100% divine and 100% human, just as Jesus is. It may not be difficult to agree with that last sentence but wrestling with the human side of scripture is what many seem to struggle with. This book is a good place to start that struggle.
A Long Faithfulness: The Case for Christian Perseverance by Scot McKnight
One of my great nemeses (cue the BtVS reference) in college was page count. I tend to be a very succinct writer. Why should I spend ten pages expounding on a topic when I can say everything I need to say in seven? I think Scot McKnight understands this, although I expect his seminary syllabi still have page requirements. This little book is well under 100 pages, but packed with content. It effectively challenges the concept of meticulous sovereignty so prominent in neo-Calvinism. Worth much more than the price and the time it takes to read it.
The Shadow Lamp by Stephen Lawhead
For 20 years now I've been a devoted reader of Stephen Lawhead. I own pretty much every book he's ever written except his long out of print children's books. I don't generally read fiction but I will drop everything when he releases a new book. This is the latest in his Bright Empires series, perhaps his most challenging series of books ever. These are novels that require and reward a keen focus.
Is It Lust or Legalism? by Brad Watson
Another fairly brief book that offers lots to chew on. Watson takes on the traditional evangelical application of Matthew 5:27-28 where Jesus equates lust with adultery. He walks a bit of a tightrope, dismissing the simplistic and legalistic definition of lust that is unquestioningly accepted by many while avoiding a libertine redefinition of the term. Definitely a worthwhile read.
As Christ Submits to the Church: A Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission by Alan Padgett
Another fairly iconoclastic effort, as you may be able to tell from the title. Padgett addresses the traditional hierarchal view of marriage within conservative Christianity, primarily focusing on a deeper look at Ephesians 5:21-33. His approach is rather novel and worth careful consideration. While I agree with his overall conclusions, I found some of his points weaker than others. Nevertheless, if you're interested in the topic this is an excellent, thought-provoking treatment.
Sacred Sex: A Spiritual Celebration of Oneness in Marriage by Tim Alan Gardner
Christianity has a very spotty history when it comes to integrating sexuality and spirituality. In truth, for centuries dominant Christian teaching held that sexuality was wholly un-spiritual. Pilgrim thought in the 16th and 17th centuries began to change that perspective, but to this day it seems very little progress has been made in expressing a positive Christian view of sexuality. Jack and Judith Balswick have done some great scholarly work on the subject but Gardner's book here is much more accessible to the average reader. He argues convincingly that married sexuality is a sacramental act similar in many ways to the Eucharist. This is a book I think every Christian married couple should read and discuss together.
Grace Filled Marriage: The Missing Piece. The Place to Start by Tim Kimmel
Another phenomenal book on marriage. While we talk a lot about the concept of grace in Christianity, too often marriages suffer from a distinct lack of it. Kimmell breaks down the definition of grace as expressed in marriage into components such as forgiveness, acceptance, approval, and intimacy and challenges us to focus on consistently offering grace to our spouses. This book is not simply a theoretical exercise, it is very intimate and practical. This is one of the best books on marriage that I've read, and I've read dozens. I highly recommend it to any married or engaged couple.
On the list for 2013:
Prototype: What Happens When You Discover You're More Like Jesus Than You Think? by Jonathan Martin
everything breathes by Ryan Miller
Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy edited by Stanley Gundry
The Meaning of Marriage by Tim & Kathy Keller
Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty by Greg Boyd
Minds, Brains, Souls and Gods: A Conversation on Faith, Psychology and Neuroscience by Malcolm Jeeves

Friday, April 12, 2013

Typical Conversations With Evangelicals: On Books

Me: I'm really enjoying Alan Smithee's new book "The Grass Is Green".
Charlie Christian: You read Alan Smithee???
Me: Yeah, why? Have you read "The Grass Is Green"?
CC: No, of course not. Alan Smithee isn't a Christian anymore.
Me: Why do you think he isn't a Christian?
CC: Because he thinks the sky is dark blue!
Me: Oh, you've read his book "The Sky Is Blue"? I enjoyed that book too.
CC: No, I haven't read it. But I heard he says the sky is dark blue! The Bible clearly teaches the sky is light blue!
Me: Actually, the Bible just says the sky is blue. It doesn't really specify a shade.
CC: Yes, but everyone knows that it means light blue!
Me: Really? What makes you say that?
CC:My church has always taught that the sky is light blue. I remember it from Sunday School. Besides, Bob Robertson wrote a book called "The Sky Isn't Dark Blue".
Me: Oh? So you read "The Sky Isn't Dark Blue"? I enjoyed that book too.
CC: No, I didn't actually read it, but I trust what Bob Robertson says.
Me: Why is that?
CC: Because he went to ACME Seminary.
Me: Oh, did you go to ACME Seminary?
CC: No, but my pastor did.
Me: Did you know that Alan Smithee went to ACME Seminary too?
CC: It doesn't matter, Alan Smithee is a heretic. Bob Robertson teaches the Biblical Truth.
Me: What makes Bob Robertson so trustworthy?
CC: He teaches that the sky is light blue.
Me: I see. Have you ever noticed how every day the sky looks a little different? Things like clouds and smog and your sunglasses affect how you perceive the sky. And then there are people who are color-blind...
CC: The sky is light blue. The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.
Me: Ok.
CC: You ought to be careful what you read. There are false teachers out there. My pastor talks about them all the time.
Me: Uh huh.
CC: Seriously. I'm just concerned about your spiritual health.
Me: Thanks.
CC: Hey, my church is having a Revival Service tonight. Want to come?
Me: Maybe some other time.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Book Review: Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter Enns

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter Enns is a fascinating exploration into the doctrine of the inspiration of scripture. It is not a challenge to that doctrine, but a reevaluation of the nature of inspiration based on current scholarship. Dealing primarily with the OT, Enns examines three main challenges:
  1. The fact that the OT (the creation and flood stories in particular) bear striking resemblance to pre-existing creation and flood narratives.
  2. The theological diversity of the OT, the apparent evolution of doctrine within the OT itself.
  3. The seemingly inappropriate ways in which NT authors quote and apply OT scriptures in support of the cause of Christ.

Monday, March 25, 2013

In Which I Rationalize Not Blogging Much

'Creativity' photo (c) 2006, Alun Salt - license: six months ago, I restarted this blog with a desire to be more intentional and consistent about writing. I actually did pretty well for a few months. I had a series on marriage that I was passionate about, I had a few other posts thrown in here and there. And now...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What are you looking for?

'Bible' photo (c) 2009, Ariel Waldman - license: profound quote from a book I recently finished:
"For those who count the Bible as sacred, interpretation is not a matter of whether to pick and choose, but how to pick and choose. We all are selective. We all wrestle with how to interpret and apply the Bible to our lives. We all go to the text looking for something, and we all have a tendency to find it. So the question we have to ask ourselves is this: Are we reading with the prejudice of love or are we reading with the prejudices of judgment and power, self-interest and greed?

"If you are looking for Bible verses with which to support slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to abolish slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to oppress women, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to liberate and honor women, you will find them. If you are looking for reasons to wage war, you will find them. If you are looking for reasons to promote peace, you will find them. If you are looking for an outdated and irrelevant text, you will find it. If you are looking for truth, believe me, you will find it."

Rachel Held Evans
A Year of Biblical Womanhood

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Best Reads of 2012

The future of booksI got back into the reading groove in 2012, finishing somewhere near 36 books. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order: